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Hawaii braces for surge in medical marijuana patients

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HONOLULU (AP) — The state Department of Health is preparing for an upswing of patients signing up for the medical cannabis registry, after two medical marijuana dispensaries in the state recently were officially opened for business.

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HONOLULU (AP) — The state Department of Health is preparing for an upswing of patients signing up for the medical cannabis registry, after two medical marijuana dispensaries in the state recently were officially opened for business.

More than 18,000 patients have joined the state’s medical cannabis registry.

About 38 percent of the patients reside on the Big Island, while 29 percent live on Oahu.

“We do see the beginning of a possible trend that shows more growth happening on Oahu,” said Scottina Ruis, coordinator for the state’s medical cannabis registry program.

The state has managed to bring the turnaround time for applicants down to three to five business days.

“At the high end, when we got the program initially, the process was an entirely paper application process, so a lot different functions for staff,” Ruis said. “I think high end of turnaround time was six to eight weeks.”

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There are four full-time employees and three more will be added by the end of the year.

“We’ve only got so many live bodies and we’re doing our best to keep up with the demand and hopefully, we can stay ahead of that,” Ruis said.

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